Friday, October 2, 2015

thinking of Rita Cavin

All of yesterday afternoon, last night, and this morning I have been thinking about Rita Cavin.  Yesterday, around 10:40 AM, Rita embarked on a journey she may have never thought possible, and weathered what was most likely the hardest day of her life.  Dr. Rita Cavin is the interim president at Umpqua Community College where yesterday a shooter took the lives of nine students and wounded seven others.  As I listened to the CNN reports at my desk yesterday, I kept thinking, "what would I do?" and the answer was "I'm not sure."  How does one prepare for that type of incident?  When all eyes are on you as the leader of the institution, how do you react?  Who are the first people you go to?  What constituency most needs your immediate attention?  And what does one do in the days and weeks following?

As I began to write this morning's blog, the thought went through my mind regarding the difference between crisis management and crisis leadership.  There are countless of courses and books on crisis management...institutions write thick manuals regarding crisis management...knowing what to do next can be figured out ahead of time.  But knowing HOW TO BE NEXT is not so easily written or codified.  What will President Cavin do this morning?  And what did she do last night reliving not only the incident but also thinking about everything she had done - or not done - during the previous twelve hours?  So, coming on the heels of a tragic shooting on a college campus, here are a few thoughts on crisis leadership:

  • people need to hear you speak...and this needs to be done through multiple media including written, social, and spoken form.
  • use the people around you...everyone on the team will bring different strengths to the situation.  Let them use their gifts at that time
  • follow the manual...there is a reason someone took time to create a process to handle emergencies. Know where the manual is and let those who wrote it direct the process
  • call your PR people and let them handle that end of the situation...similar to above, let the professionals do their work (and make sure you have ready access to professional PR people)
  • walk seen by others and engage in the process of helping and healing.  And during the walk, take time to talk with individuals who have been affected.
  • think ahead...the institution needs to keep operating the next day and the next week.  What needs to happen so that your organization - and your people - are back online as soon as is feasible? And what needs to happen so that those left behind can go through a healing process?
  • be a purveyor of hope...Napoleon's famous phrase that leaders are dealers in hope might never play out more true in times like this.  There is a future ahead - be sure that is part of your message
  • be true to who you someone to whom spirituality is important, I will pray and lead others in that practice; as someone who can be emotional at times, I will probably have my time of weeping and mourning; as someone who needs quiet time to recharge, I will find a place of solitude later in the day and just be quiet.  Crisis leadership demands everything one has, so being true to self is critical if momentum is to be maintained.
And so, I offer this prayer for the community that makes up Umpqua Community College and especially for Rita Calvin:

Lord of all compassion
We pray for all of those caught up in the midst of tragedy or disaster.
For those who have lost life and those working to save life
For those who are worried for people they love
For those who will see their loved ones no longer
Lord Have Mercy.
For those in need of the peace that passes all understanding
For all who turn to you in the midst of turmoil
For those who cry out to you in fear and in love
Lord Have Mercy.
For those in confusion and those in despair
For those whose tears are yet to dry
For those in need of your unending love
Lord Have Mercy


Brian Becker said...

Lord have mercy. Amen. Thanks Don for this thoughtful post. Will forward to my network. Peace on earth.

Jeff Hesterman said...

Your words are right on target. The fact that you are thinking about it puts you ahead of most people and is one reason why you are a great leader.

Don Christian said...

Thanks, friends. Glad it was helpful. Can't imagine what this mornign will bring for my colleagues at Umpqua. Blessings...